back to article China's Great Firewall inventor forced to use VPN live on stage to dodge his own creation

The architect of China's Great Firewall was forced to use a VPN to bypass his own creation in a lecture this week on internet safety. Fang Binxing was speaking at his old university, the Harbin Institute of Technology in Heilongjiang, China, when he attempted to access webpages hosted in South Korea as a way to illustrate a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1. Any sufficiently advanced internet filtering is indistinguishable from someone randomly unplugging your modem every 5 minutes.

    2. The fact that even the most sophisticated censorship can be circumvented leads people to complacency. Censorship works at far, far less than 100% efficacy, and is best thought of as a low-pass filter for political / cultural information. Even the fairly weak-sauce censorship that's growing in the west is extremely dangerous.

  2. Teiwaz Silver badge

    please unplug your modem...

    "Even the fairly weak-sauce censorship that's growing in the west is extremely dangerous."

    - So dangerous you only felt safe posting anonymous?

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. SolidSquid

    Re: Censorship sole function is political

    There's the old D-Notice thing where the government makes a "request" for media companies not to cover a subject. Technically they can do it anyway, Guardian did so over the Snowden papers iirc, but they almost always tow the line on that to avoid conflict with the government

    Quick check, it was the US PRISM programme part of the Snowden releases, and when the Guardian ignored it apparently Cameron brought up the possibility of judicial action to force them to stop covering it in parliament

  5. Uplink

    Re: please unplug your modem...

    "you only felt safe posting anonymous"

    It's quasi-anonymous. El Reg still knows who you are (Anonymous Coward had to log in) and can tell on you to any interested parties. This isn't Slashdot.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: please unplug your modem...

    Coupled with the tracking cookies and IP logs, they even know when and where you posted...

  7. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    just because..

    You're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not after you.

    Also, we've managed to create a system that even Orwell would have marvelled at. We completely removed the need for sending old news to the incinerators once corrected, and it's only a matter of time before they figure out how to filter the information insitu with the need to be so heavy handed and just blanket banning everything.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: just because..

    @ Sgt And these days, to some extent "they" (the criminals, commercial entities, the three letter agencies, dictatorships, even proper authorities and so on) really are out to get people, no paranoia necessary.

  9. mosw

    Re: just because..

    ... you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not after you."

    Given that some government agencies want to treat all encrypted data as suspicious you could rephrase that to "If you are paranoid, then they are after you."

  10. Nifty
    Big Brother

    Re: just because..

    So true, and you really could not make this up:

    Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/technology/companies/18amazon.html?_r=0

  11. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Re: just because..

    Yes I remember that one too.. Thats the reason I own a Sony ereader. No WiFi or whisper net to pull that sort of crap on me with.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A taste of his own poison

    Nice.

  13. Trainee grumpy old ****
    Big Brother

    Re: A taste of his own poison

    And it was ever thus: do what I say, not what I do.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unlike our governments...

    .. who already collect our traffic and spy on everything we do.

    At least China make it obvious they are fucking with you.

  15. BitDr

    Schadenfreude

    That is all.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Schadenfreude

    Hm .. and also a little bit of the "'what goes around comes around", I would venture.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funny that he did not use Tor.

    I guess using Tor would have been too much for the Thought Police.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is someone checking the checkers?

    I live in a little slice of ex Briton in China and have always wondered if my internet traffic is being modified in any way.

    If, for example, stories on the Panama papers on the BBC news web site were being altered or some how replaced would anyone know? Is anyone checking?

  19. Seajay#

    Re: Is someone checking the checkers?

    If you're looking at news sites that use https and using your own computer which you can be confident no-one has installed dodgy certificates on then you would know if the page had been altered. If either of those things isn't true then you wouldn't know.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Is someone checking the checkers?

    Or they are spoofing the CA server.

  21. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Re: Is someone checking the checkers?

    Not if it was altered BEFORE encryption, say at the news site itself...

  22. Topperfalkon

    Re: Is someone checking the checkers?

    You live in part of a British person living in China? How does that work?

  23. xperroni
    Facepalm

    Payback, she is a bitch

    Or as our Verity Stob would put it, "hahahahahahahahahahahahahah."

  24. raving angry loony

    Ah yes.

    Hypocrisy at its FINEST. Well done for showing up the entire system.

  25. Winkypop Silver badge

    Hey everyone. Look over THERE!

    ....while I configure my pc...

  26. The Islander
    WTF?

    Hold on ...

    Why would he do this so publicly? I can claim no great insight to Chinese culture and apparatchik but I'd be amazed if one of the most basic of human concerns - for self preservation - simply went offline during his lecture.

    I doff my hat to Occam, Hanlon, et al.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Hold on ...

    He might have his regrets, and took at chance to send a message .. who knows?

  28. agatum
    Black Helicopters

    To the audience's amazement, Binxing then tried to bypass the firewall using a VPN installed on his computer – the same tool secretly installed by millions of Chinese to get around censorship efforts, but whose use is heavily frowned upon by officials.

    Perhaps frowned so much as to put Mr. Fang to good use at the local salt mine for, say, ten years?

  29. Dog11

    >> To the audience's amazement, Binxing then tried to bypass

    >> the firewall using a VPN installed on his computer – the

    >> same tool secretly installed by millions of Chinese to get

    >> around censorship efforts, but whose use is heavily frowned

    >> upon by officials.

    >

    > Perhaps frowned so much as to put Mr. Fang to good use at

    > the local salt mine for, say, ten years?

    No, he's an official. The rules don't apply if you're sufficiently high in that category (and that's not only in China), though it was very bad form to do it in front of an audience.

  30. enormous c word

    Paranoia is just a heightened state of awareness

  31. Chris Fox

    Paranoia

    Panama is just a state of heightened tax avoidance

  32. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Re: Paranoia

    Isn't Paranoia somewhere near Uruguay?

  33. Tommy Pock

    You think we don't have internet censorship?

    Look at Google (UK) autocompletes for

    Labour is

    Lib Dems are

    UKIP are

    The Greens are

    And then

    Tories are

    Conservatives are

    And this tells you exactly why Google paid about ten pence in owed taxes. Google is not your friend.

  34. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Thank you for posting that - most enlightening.

  35. MrXavia

    Bloody hell....

    That is quite a shock...

    Also Try

    Theresa May is

  36. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Still..

    "Nigel Farage is"

    Must have slipped through the net that one :)

  37. OrientalHero

    Woah, that's quite skewed. Also indefensible with the "only what is most popularly searched on" arguement...

  38. David Nash Silver badge

    Interesting. There is some discussion of it on the Guardian page (that came up as part of the same searches) here:

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/02/google-tories-are-labour-are-autocomplete-conspiracy-theories

  39. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Also indefensible with the "only what is most popularly searched on" [argument]...

    Google doesn't claim that autocomplete shows the most-popular searches. I don't know if there's an official description of the the process, but while the base algorithm is no doubt a fairly simple predictor (probably something like an HMM doing Viterbi, though they might just be reusing one of their ANN implementations), it's likely that personal search history is also an input, if Google can identify you by session, cookie, or other means.

    More importantly, Google lets people request particular autocomplete results be removed. So it's quite possible that one organization (say, a particular political party) has a small team of interns looking for autocomplete results and submitting removal requests to Google, while another organization is less vigilant.

    A conspiracy seems rather less likely, since it's quite cheap for organizations to arrange this state of affairs themselves.

  40. This post has been deleted by its author

  41. Fullmetal5

    Link?

    Does anybody have a link to his speech?

    I'm interested to hear how he portrayed places that don't censor their internet.

  42. Tony Paulazzo

    members of China's politburo are among those shown to have used offshore accounts to hide or obscure their wealth

    TIL:

    China is not a communist state but authoritarian.

    China has 128 of the world's billionaires (and British poor beats Chinese poor).

    China loves the Transformer movies.

    We really should eat the rich!

  43. Andy 97

    My daughter has a phrase she uses for occasions like this:

    LOL

  44. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Not to put too much of a downer on your daughters mood - but you do realise that is her future she's laughing at don't you?

  45. Trigonoceps occipitalis

    Lots of Love?

    D Cameron

  46. Ralph B

    Thinks

    Thinks: I wonder if you might be able to protect yourself from Chinese hackers by having a copy of the Panama Papers on your HDD.

  47. SolidSquid

    Re: Thinks

    Probably easier to make your computer's hostname "Tianamen Square"

  48. Anonymous Blowhard

    Was the sponsored link at the bottom of the article a joke inserted by a human, or are the AIs messing with us?

    Sponsored: Network monitoring and troubleshooting for Dummies

  49. crayon

    Yeah right, blame it on Panama

    "Panama is just a state of heightened tax avoidance".

    That Panamanian law firm is only acting as a middle man. The real tax avoidance takes place in the offshore tax havens, many of which are under British jurisdiction.

  50. BurnT'offering

    When his political career is over

    the next obvious move is into desktop support

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